It’s become a Melbourne pastime to be disparaging about Docklands, the newly redeveloped waterfront precinct that’s home to vast gleaming towers and new business headquarters. Until now, it’s been missing a heart. That’s changed with the new library at Victoria Harbour, which is following the overseas trend of libraries becoming multifunction community meeting spaces with additional facilities like 3D printing and a recording studio.
Library at the Dock stands out for a lot of reasons, the first of which is its beautiful wooden exterior, sitting in stark relief against the steel and glass structures nearby. It is made from reclaimed hardwood and engineered cross-laminated timber, which was prefabricated in Europe before shipping to Melbourne, helping to get the building Australia’s first 6 Star Green Star public building rating. The second of which is its seamless integration of complicated audio, video and interactive technology with the traditional library role of meeting place and repository of knowledge.
Pasquale Valpied, Partner and Consultant at Parity Technology Consulting, started discussions with the City of Melbourne about the proposed library in mid- 2012. “We had months and months of stakeholder meetings, with both the users of the space and key people within the City of Melbourne,” reported Pasquale. “The key objective of the library was to provide somewhere for community enrichment in Docklands. Up until now, construction has focussed on apartments and commercial buildings, but nothing for the community. Library at the Dock was designed to create some cohesion for the diverse backgrounds of the people who live in Docklands.”
Parity Technology Consulting’s – Pasquale Valpied
Not your Grandad’s Library
Right from the outset, it was clear that the City of Melbourne wanted to create something modern with a strong emphasis on using the latest AV technology. “They were referencing other libraries around the world that are shifting from being quiet places with lots of books, to being community centres with multipurpose facilities for all ages,” Pasquale continued. “Technology was a key driver in the project to engage with different demographics. One of the key concepts was interactivity; being able to walk in and interact with current and historical content for all ages. For example, there’s a kids area with an interactive floor and interactive touchscreens mounted low on the wall. In the café, there are interactive screens embedded into the timber tabletop where you can sit down and read e-newspapers and e-magazines.”
The layout of the library evolves over three levels. On approach, you can’t help but notice the 15 square meter LED screen on the outside of the building. Upon entering on the ground floor, you’re engaged by the café, reception, way finding via digital signage and the bulk of the book collection, which makes you feel like you’re in a traditional library. While the children’s collection on the ground floor houses the interactive floor and touch screens, this isn’t apparent until you’ve moved a long way into the space. Upon venturing to the second level, the purpose of the building starts to expand; there’s an art gallery capable of running wall and floor projections, video conferencing facilities for the staff and free-standing interactive tables for engaging with digital content. The third level is the furthest removed from the traditional library, housing a recording studio, practice rooms, a performance space, and a maker’s space for 3D printing and coding.
Live at The Library
Designing, installing and commissioning such a wide range of AV and interactive technology was shared over several organisations. Integrator Pro AV Solutions handled the bulk of the AV installation and commissioning. Melbourne specialist Interactivity provided both hardware and software for the interactive tables, screens and floor. Mitsubishi Electric provided the expertise to mount and commission the external LED screen. Just Digital Signage provided content and logistics for the digital signage system. Technical Audio Group provided support for digital audio networking and console configuration, and theatrical lighting specialist Lightmoves had design input into the lighting equipment and infrastructure they installed and commissioned in the performance space.
“The brief was that the performance space had to be extremely flexible,” explained Pasquale. “It had to be capable of running everything from a band to a presentation or seminar, or activities on the floor like a yoga class, or nontraditional performances in-the-round. It was designed with an Acromat seating system that can collapse into itself at the back of the room, which presented us with challenges regarding cabling and flexibility. There wasn’t the space for a bio box so we had to put the control desks on the back tier and allow for enough space.” Lighting control is via a Martin M2GO and external 22” touchscreen, running through LSC dimmers and to a rig consisting of Philips Selecon SDX profiles, Philips Showline SL Par 150s and Philips Selecon RAMA HP Fresnels.
The performance space
From Stage to Studio
The performance space boasts some impressive audio credentials. An Allen & Heath iLive T-80 digital mixer connected to an iDR-32 mixing engine fitted with a Dante card means the audio from the iDR-16s in the recording studio and practice rooms can be sent over the building’s network to the performance space, or vice-versa. The PA in the performance space is equally flexible; EAW JF29NTs are installed as left, centre and right, and reinforced with an SBK250 sub. For movie screenings, six EAW CR72Z cinema speakers provide surround, with two of each on the side and rear walls. Powersoft amps provide the grunt, while a Crestron HD-XSP surround audio processor handles processing for any configuration, taking a mix from the iLive, and switching to 7.1 mode at the touch of a screen. Room control can be done from a Crestron touchscreen in the lectern or from another Crestron panel at the control position.
The recording studio houses an Avid C24 control surface, reporting back to a Mac running ProTools 10. The iDR-16s and iDR-32 acts as remotely controlled preamps for the recording system, with signal patched directly to ProTools via Dante Virtual Soundcard. The space is stocked with the full complement of gear expected in any mid-level project studio; mics from Shure, Rode and Audix, BSS DIs, Fostex headphones, K&M mic stands and KRK monitors. Anyone in the community can book time in the studio, record via network patch from the electronic drums, keyboard or acoustic piano in the practice rooms or make a live multitrack recording of a gig in the performance space. For free. That’s an amazing level of amenity for any community.
There’s even more to the library than this short overview can cover; multiple small spaces with projection or display capability thanks to Projection Design, Sony or Panasonic, video and control distribution from both Extron and Crestron, and a nascent IPTV system courtesy of Haivision that’s ready to port IPTV to any network output in the building. There’s very little in the changes to come in the 21st century that this building is not already equipped for. Its most important goal, providing a space for people to come together, communicate and learn everything they need to succeed in a changing world, has been more than adequately achieved.
Pasquale is happy with the community’s reaction to the facilities. “Every time I go in there it’s heavily utilised,” he related. “The City of Melbourne is very happy, too. Other councils are starting to reference Library at the Dock when seeking to fund or design new buildings. The City of Melbourne was trying to create a benchmark in Australia, and it seems they’ve done it.”
First published in CX Magazine (December, 2015)